Presented on October 28, 1985 at Quarry Farm. Henry Nash Smith is Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley and former curator of the Mark Twain Papers. He is credited as being the co-founder of the discipline "American Studies." His books include Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950), Mark Twain of the Enterprise (1957), Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer (1962), Mark Twain's Fable of Progress: Political and Economic Ideas in A Connecticut Yankee (1964), Popular Culture and Industrialism 1865-1890 (1967), and Democracy and the Novel (1978).
In Mark Twain's later writing, his preoccupation with dreaming expressed the same impulse to free himself from the constraints of civilization that had led him to use vernacular language in Huckleberry Finn as an alternative to the rhetoric of high culture. Just as Huck felt free and easy on the raft with Jim, in dreams a protagonist could enjoy a world without blemish. But Huck could not discover no durable values to replace those of St. Petersburg, and the rose-tinted dreams ended either in a surrender to conventional society or the nightmare of being alone in an empty universe - a foreshadowing of the theme of 'absence' in twentieth-century literature.